For my reviews of the other Phase 3 films, click the following links:
- CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)
- DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)
- GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)
- SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)
- THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
- BLACK PANTHER (2018)
- AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)
- ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018)
- AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)
- SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019)
For the other MCU films, click the following links:
Ho boy, here we go.
Well, let me get this out of the way. I’m aware of the backlash against Brie Larson and her so called “anti-white men” campaign, and a whole lot of butt-hurt internet trolls trying to bring down the movie on RottenTomatoes. My two cents… I don’t care. I haven’t read too deeply into what exactly Larson has said, and without context, I don’t have a voice to chime in with. I do speak out against people who try to denounce a movie without haven’t seen it, or try to sabotage its success. That’s just petty, and ultimately pretty fruitless as the movie is on track to break all kind of records. Also, I can’t speak to what Larson is like as a person, but I love the work she churns out in her films, so consider me a fan.
Obviously, as someone who’s never read many comics, I don’t know much about the character of Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers. In fact, when the project was announced, I made an attempt to get to know the character from the Marvel Wiki and… I won’t lie, I came out knowing almost nothing about her. I knew she was in the Air Force and that she had Kree blood in her, but that was about all I knew. Not that I got bored with reading, but what I read seemed extremely confusing and convoluted, so I didn’t retain much information beyond that. Actually, I was under the impression that Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel were the same character, just Captain Marvel was a more updated and had a less skimpy design, and the “Ms” was dropped to not be obvious with that she was… you know, a female. But I guess that isn’t the case and they’re two very different people, and that Ms. Marvel actually looks up to Captain? Hey, I’ll leave it up to you comic nerds to correct my “knowledge.”
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Brie Larson (GLASS CASTLE , ROOM , and the upcoming JUST MERCY ), Samuel L. Jackson (GLASS , INCREDIBLES II , XXX 3 , the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and upcoming films SHAFT  and THE LAST FULL MEASURE ), Ben Mendelsohn (ROBIN HOOD , DARKEST HOUR , ROGUE ONE , and upcoming SPIES IN DISGUISE  and THE KING ), Jude Law (VOX LUX , KING ARTHUR , SPY , HUGO , SHERLOCK HOLMES , and upcoming films THE RHYTHM SECTION  and SHERLOCK HOLMES 3 ), and Annette Bening (LIFE ITSELF  and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN ).
In support, we have Clark Gregg (LIVE BY NIGHT , and the upcoming RUN SWEETHEART RUN ), Gemma Chan (MARY QUEEN , TRANSFORMERS 5 , and FANTASTIC BEASTS ), Lee Pace (BOOK/HENRY ), Djimon Hounsou (SERENITY , AQUAMAN , KING ARTHUR, TARZAN , TRAIN/DRAGON 2 , and upcoming films SHAZAM!  and CHARLIE’S ANGELS ), and Mckenna Grace (READY PLAYER ONE , I TONYA , INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 , and the upcoming ANNABELLE 3 ).
Now for the crew. Co-directing and co-writing, we have Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, both known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. The final co-writer is Geneva Robertson-Dworet, known for TOMB RAIDER (2018). Composing the score is Pinar Toprak, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming IT’S TIME (2019). The cinematographer is Ben Davis, known for THREE BILLBOARDS (2017), STARDUST (2007), and upcoming films DUMBO (2019) and KINGSMAN: THE GREAT GAME (2020). Finally, co-editors are Debbie Berman (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of) and Elliot Graham (MOLLY’S GAME  and X2 ).
Overall, what can I say? I’m excited. I love the MCU, I like Brie Larson, and I’m curious to see the MCU’s first female-led movie. All the ingredients are there, so I bet I’ll like it.
This is my honest opinion of: CAPTAIN MARVEL
Set in 1995. Vers (Brie Larson) is a loyal Kree soldier for the Kree Starforce, and is suffering from retrograde amnesia, only occasionally getting flashes of a past life that she can’t remember. Under the command of her stalwart commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), she and her team are sent on a mission to recover a spy of theirs that is held captive among a Skrull-occupied planet, a race of efficient shapeshifters who have invaded Kree border worlds. However, the mission goes sideways as the spy turns out to be a Skrull in disguise, Vers gets knocked out and taken to a Skrull ship, as they peer into her memories for information regarding a human scientist named Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), who was close to developing a Light Speed Engine, which could end the war. Vers escapes, but winds up on planet C-53, or as the inhabitants call it, Earth. She is “greeted” by a local inhabitant, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and the two get caught up in the crosshairs of surviving Skrull soldiers. As their journey continues, Vers learns that she’s actually from Earth, and even more secrets are uncovered, putting everything she knows into question.
As I write this review, I’ve officially seen this movie twice and I gotta say… I really hate men’s rights activists. I really like it and I think it’s good. Is it the best entry in the MCU? No. Is even among the best of the MCU? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t make it any less of a solid entry.
Alright, so first thing’s first, we’re going to fittingly start with the opening logo. This movie has, and unless ENDGAME will do the same thing, the single greatest and most meaningful logo. All of the footage is of Stan Lee and his many cameos, and if I looked close enough, probably more than a few behind the scenes clips and promos with him, followed by a simple, “Thank you, Stan.” I won’t lie, I got a touch emotional with this. I honestly think if ENDGAME doesn’t do this, it’ll be a bit disappointing, especially since these films are only a month apart. I just think it’d be fitting. I don’t care if SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME doesn’t do it, but I think ENDGAME should.
But on to the story itself. I enjoy the set up and the nay-sayers can shut right the f*** up about how Larson doesn’t look like she’s going to be a fun character. In fact, there’s a scene in this movie that makes the marketing seem freakin’ ingenious, but I’ll get there in a second. We’re shown to be on an alien planet, she’s restless, cocky, kind of a smart-ass, an effective fighter only bested by a more experienced fighter, but knows how to take a punch. Not that I was ever planning on picking a fight with Brie Larson, as I know what happens to someone who antagonizes blondes…
But now seeing that tonage in her muscles and screaming at a roaring Skrull, I might wear padding and armor around her, even if she’s in a good mood. In any case, she’s got a fun personality. Sure, nothing that we haven’t seen before in the likes of Tony Stark, Peter Quill, or Steven Strange, but at least with Carol, we know that she’s at least open to opposing ideas. She’s mature enough to hear criticism and take it in to try and learn from it. She never drops the snark or humor, but she knows when to tone it down. She’s not the classic adult-child who has to have a maturity arc like we’re sometimes accustomed to in these movies. She’s already mature, she’s just fun-loving and is a little more choice in who receives her humor. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when some cocky biker dude parks next to her and proceeds to be that guy and goes, “Give me a smile. Lighten up, tootes.” He doesn’t say “tootes,” I just think that’s a funny word, but you get the idea. He’s one of those guys that thinks a woman should act and react a certain way when a man says or does something. All Carol does is give him a single glare and then never acknowledges him again. I think this is brilliant because this is the very thing that idiots were complaining about when the trailers landed and she’s never smiling. Yeah, because no one ever talks about how AGE OF ULTRON looked like it was going to be a borderline horror movie and Ultron was going to be scary villain, or currently complains about how Captain America LITERALLY never tells a single solitary joke, f*** right the hell off! Point is, Captain Marvel is not only funny in her own right, but she’s an even better character. To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded if she was humorless. Worked alright for BLACK PANTHER. Works wonders for Batman. She could have been a comic-foil; others make jokes around her and she punches holes in their humor or corrects them on political correctness. I don’t know, the more I think about that, the more I wish I could have seen it. As is, fun-loving works fine. Actually, if there’s anyone that does fill that role, it’s Law as Yon-Rogg. Even though he cracks his smiles, he’s definitely the guy who is supposed to be overly serious and ruining Carol’s humor.
The arrival on Earth is a lot of fun too. Sure, the Blockbuster scene is a bit 90s overload, it doesn’t change how fun it is to be walking around the sections and picking out the 90s movies in the background. By the way, bet you ten dollars that some misogynist interpreted the whole “zapping Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face and leaving Jamie Lee Curtis’ alone” bit as part of Larson’s campaign against white men. Lives. They’re a thing. Beyond that, I might question how an original Gameboy and a pay phone can help alien technology boost a signal to another starship in another galaxy, but the visual was cute, so I won’t question much.
Two of my favorite characters are Maria (Lashana Lynch) and Monica (Akira Akbar). First off, holy crap, Lynch is English?! Damn, I couldn’t tell for the life of me! But she definitely brought a lot to the table. She had arguably the most emotional range to work with. You buy into her relationship with Larson, you believe her shock and confusion when they’re reunited, even her disbelief when the entire story of Carol’s survival is told to her. But what really sells it for me is when she admits how hard all of this is for her. There’s that effective blend of her trying to keep her shit together, but it’s still fizzing over. As for Monica, I can see more than a few people saying that she was just pandering to young girls, as her role in this movie is just being so in awe of Captain Marvel, instead of being her own character. This is true, but maybe I’m just a sucker with cute kids with oodles of energy, but she was adorable in her admiration and even telling her mom the business of getting involved, rather than sitting around “watching Fresh Prince.” She’ll be hit or miss with audiences, but I thought Akbar was fun.
Now let’s talk about the villains. I have been meandering around my house, watching THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY for nine episodes and doing laundry trying to wrap my head around how I felt about them. At first, I wanted to say that I was fatigued from all the “surprise villains” that we’ve been getting of late, but then it occurred to me that the only surprise villains in the MCU were Obadiah Stane and Ego. So that went right out the door as something to complain about. Even if I did have a problem with surprise villains, I’ve seen it done well, and some have even been in movies that made it to my Top 10 lists, so I really lost the right to complain. In this case, we knew that there was a mystery surrounding Carol Danvers’ past. I would admit that I didn’t see Yon-Rogg coming as the villain, but I guess it wouldn’t have been too difficult to figure out if you really put your mind to it. I never did consider myself an overly observant or intelligent human being.
And I have to say that Bening as the Supreme Intelligence was… pretty scary. All I could think about was, “Woman! You were in THE SEAGULL!!! You’re regal and elegant! The hell are you doing in a bomber jacket and dancing to Nirvana?!” But then she glared into the camera with her neon green eyes and suddenly my heart sank. I swore to God that she was going to eat me. Then I’m all like, “No, Annette! I’m Mexican food! I’ll just make you gas-y!” I’m not ready for a world with a scary Bening, guys! But more to the point, I suppose it only makes sense that she’s a hidden villain. The choice to use and control Carol’s powers for their own benefit in their war against anyone who won’t submit to Kree rule wouldn’t be made by a grunt soldier like Yon-Rogg, no matter how loyal he is. Of course the Intelligence would make this decision and Yon-Rogg would obviously go with it without question. His loyalties to the Kree are unshakable, no matter what kind of bond he developed with Carol.
Also, I originally wanted to say that this was an extremely lame origin to Fury’s bum eye. His line in WINTER SOLDIER, “The last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye,” in a movie that’s all about not knowing who to trust, my imagination went wild with the story that lost him his eye. At first, I thought, “Really? Goose is the reason he lost his eye?” I mean, he trusted an unpredictable and extremely dangerous alien… which went passive toward the bad guys at random… proving that it shouldn’t be trusted… and he’s surprised that his eye got slashed?! One would think that this would be the defining moment of his lack of trust in anyone, even Captain America down the line. However, the more I thought about it, the more it almost made too much sense, and I have two moments that I think support this. One, the final scene. Coulson asks Fury if it’s true that he lost his eye because of alien torture, instead of the embarrassing, or hilarious, truth. Fury has always had a wicked sense of humor. But consider the second idea. Think back to Tony Stark’s line from THE AVENGERS. “His secrets have secrets.” Fury is not above lying to people, or putting on a theatrical show (faking his death) to get his way. So the more I thought about that, the more I thought it fit with his character.
Now for the other big twist in the story. To my understanding of the comics, the Skrulls are actually very villainous. They’re responsible for the Secret Wars, which I guess was supposed to be this Earth-shaking event in the comics where it turns out many of the superheroes were revealed to be Skrulls in disguise and then… I don’t know, ask a comic nerd for the details. Prior to this film’s release, I remember a lot of people having their fan theories that this movie would lead into the Secret Wars story from the comics. I am unbelievably thankful and overjoyed to report that this will never happen. The Skrulls are actually the surprise good guys in the flick. They’ve been victims of Kree onslaught and they’re a dying race who just wants to live outside of the Kree war. Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) wants to find Mar-Vell’s hidden laboratory, not for the Light Speed Engine, but for the Skrull refugees that she’s been protecting and hiding, specifically his wife and child, whom he clearly hasn’t seen for many years, due to the child being unsure of him at first. A truly heartbreaking, yet hopeful moment in the movie that really stands out. Whatever the comic nerds were hoping for, they ain’t gettin’ it, and I couldn’t be happier and I’ll never have to hear it ever again. And yes, I heard this idea circulating a lot.
But, we all have to be honest here, even the most die-hard lovers of this movie, it’s got some issues. One of the major problems with prequel stories is that the storytellers have a tendency to create new ideas that inadvertently create a “well, where was this in the other movies?” kind of effect. Introducing something new that the other movies never reference, and sadly, this movie does this quite a bit and one can’t help but ask the questions that we’re likely never going to get an answer to.
Let’s start with a smaller issue. Jackson is a lot of fun, but… I don’t know, did anyone else not really agree with his character tic? “Everyone calls me Fury. Not Nicholas, not Nick, just Fury.” Um… in the very first MCU film where he’s introduced, he literally introduces himself as “Nick Fury.” Not that I recall any specific moments in the MCU history, but I’m pretty sure everyone calls Fury, “Nick.”
There is also some janky writing. Using phrases like, “As you know,” or, “But you know this,” is an extremely poor way of getting out exposition. If the character knows this information, then there’s no logical reason for them to be saying it. I know, it’s for the benefit of the audience who might be lost, but they revisit this very same conversation a few moments later and done in a… slightly better way. Again, smaller issue, as it’s not repeated. Still, an issue is still an issue. Especially since it’s a weird one that Marvel has never made before.
What the hell was Mendelsohn’s accent in the archives room of Project Pegasus? Seriously, in the span of a few seconds, he bounced from Southern English, to Scottish, then to English, my ear-drums were thrown into a freakin’ blender, man! What makes it even more bizarre is that he sticks with an English accent (I think… hard to tell with his voice) for the rest of his performance.
Maybe it’s just me, but did anyone else think that the CGI on Larson’s face as she was flying around during the climax look really bad? I couldn’t shake it, but I feel the texture and animation on her face looked more akin to a video game cutscene than a high budget action movie. This wouldn’t be the biggest deal in the world if they didn’t do a flawless job with de-aging Jackson. Kind of a strange dropping of the ball there.
For anyone who might be hoping to see Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) have a meaningful role in this movie, he doesn’t. He has a grand total of three appearances, a maximum of five minutes worth of screen time, two of them in funky CGI form, and he never meets Korath (Djimon Hounsou), making their alliance that we know they have in GUARDIANS volume one. <<<SPOILERS>>> [ Also, what a pointless way for his character to exit the movie, threatening to return for Captain Marvel. Um… I doubt he ever does. Chronologically speaking, the next time we see him is in GUARDIANS volume one and he dies at the end of that. So much for that threat. Should have just left defeated. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Why is this movie so dumb when it comes to knowing who a Skrull is and who isn’t? I’m specifically referring to the bar scene between Carol and Fury as she questions him. “Skrulls can only pick up recent memories, not long term.” Okay, well, the Skrulls have clearly been to Earth. It may not be clear how long they’ve been there, but they could have picked out backstories to sell their disguises, or be really good at improv. A race of shapeshifters and possible infiltrators would be naturally really good at that, one would think. On Fury’s end, when she shows off her photon blast, how is he legitimately supposed to know that Skrulls can’t do that? He has zero proof of what a Skrull is or is not capable of doing.
I think the biggest issue with the movie is that it feels almost… too familiar. The way it’s presented just feels like a hodgepodge of movies that we’ve already seen before. It’s a prequel story, so it feels like CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER. It’s about space people in conflict with others, so it feels like a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. A space person who literally crashes onto Earth from space and has fish-out-of-water moments? That sure feels like THOR. I suppose this movie was going to have a shaky foundation from the get-go. Sure, the 90’s feel is the only unique aspect about the flick, and Lord knows that this movie gets some brownie points for playing Garbage’s “I’m Only Happy When it Rains,” and Nirvana’s “Come as You Are,” but that can only take it so far. Bottom line, I just don’t think this has its own identity other than the 90s and a female protagonist.
Also, for as much build-up at there was making Captain Marvel out to be “the most powerful character in the MCU,” I have to say that after seeing this movie, I don’t quite buy it. Don’t get me wrong, she takes on a squadron of Kree snub fighters and a single capital ship without breaking a sweat, but I feel like if she and Thor duked it out, the victories would be pretty even split, not to mention that Thor literally has hundreds of years worth of combat experience, whereas Captain Marvel has had six. Okay, sure, I’m only basing that on up to this point in the MCU timeline, but even factoring her appearance in ENDGAME, that’s only going to be twenty-four years worth of combat experience. Plus, I’m not sure how Captain Marvel’s photon blasts are more powerful than Thor’s mastery of lightning. Her presentation leaves much to be desired. Here’s hoping we see that power in ENDGAME.
Where the hell has Goose been? I would believe that he died between 1995 and 2008 if Goose was a regular cat, but he’s an alien disguised as a cat. So… yeah. Where he at??
Bigger problem, I have no idea what the Light Speed Engine’s significance is. So much focus is on it, “the Engine could win the war,” or some such shit, but… I don’t get it. What’s up with the hexagon warping stuff? That seemed to take ships from one planet to another pretty freakin’ quick. What’s wrong with that? Why is the Engine so important? Is it “faster than light” like in the Mass Effect video games? If so, then, okay, but that’s not made clear. If anything, the hexagon warping thing looked faster than however fast the Light Speed Engine was supposed to be; instantaneous travel as opposed to… really really fast travel.
Overall, I like this movie. It’s got flaws, make no mistake. A bunch of little flaws, to be sure, but more than a couple of big ones too. The script isn’t always up to snuff, the story is kind of messy, and the saddest part is that the movie doesn’t really have its own identity. In more ways than one, this movie is kind of underwhelming. With that said, I can’t pretend that when it does something right, I really enjoyed myself. Brie Larson as Captain Marvel feels great and I enjoyed her performance. Jackson, Mendelsohn, Bening, Lynch, and Akira Akbar are great supporting characters, almost outshining Larson herself. I like this movie, regardless of its flaws, but I won’t ignore that they exist, and acknowledge that it’s definitely one of the lesser Phase 3 stories.
My honest rating for CAPTAIN MARVEL: 4/5
This week’s reviews:
Next week’s reviews:
- THE AFTERMATH
- THE MUSTANG
- CAPTIVE STATE
- FIVE FEET APART
- WONDER PARK
- THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT
- NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE
- NO MANCHES FRIDA 2: PARAÍSO DESTRUIDO
- PLAIRE, AIMER ET COURIR VITE / SORRY ANGEL
- FAITH, HOPE & LOVE